Click HERE for an audio version of this message.
After Herod beheaded John the Baptist, Jesus left Judea and went north to Galilee. He walked along the sea of Galilee and called Peter, Andrew, James and John to be fishers of men along with him. On the next Sabbath, Jesus and his newly called disciples went to worship in the Synagogue in Capernaum- Peter’s hometown Synagogue. The people there had heard about Jesus and they asked him to speak. They were amazed at his teaching because he didn’t quote the famous Rabbis. He taught with authority. He said, “This is the word of the Lord.”
As Jesus was teaching, Satan tried to disrupt and distract. A man in the Synagogue who had an unclean spirit, a demon, cried out. The spirit correctly identified Jesus as the Holy One of God. But Jesus did not allow the distraction. He didn’t allow the demon to speak another word. He showed the authority that was his as the Holy One of God by commanding the demon to leave and the demon had to obey. Jesus backed up his authoritative teaching with authoritative actions.
Of course, word about what Jesus had said and done in the Synagogue spread quickly through the whole region. What effect would this have on Jesus’ ministry? All the free, word-of-mouth advertising would bring a lot of attention, everyone would want to at least catch a glimpse of the Jesus who not only taught with authority but, just by the power of his word, without any incantations or hocus pocus, cast out demons. And, if you had a family member or a friend who was sick, or you suspected they might have a demon, you would search him out hoping to be healed by him.
Why had Jesus come? What was the primary purpose of his ministry? That’s the question Mark is answering for us today.
When the service at the Synagogue was over, Jesus and his four new disciples headed to Peter’s house for a Sabbath meal. When they arrived, they discovered that Peter’s mother-in-law had suddenly fallen ill. She was bed-ridden with a fever. (In case you missed it, Peter was married. Jesus didn’t require his Apostles to be celibate.) Could Jesus help? He had cast out a demon, could he heal illness? Would he heal this unnamed woman in a private home away from the crowds or were his miracles only intended for well-known people? Were they only done in front of crowds where a large number of people would see them?
When they told Jesus about her, he went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. Yes, Jesus also had authority over illness. No, he didn’t heal just for show, only in front of crowds. He had not come to serve only the rich and famous, or to make a name for himself. He had come to serve anyone and everyone in need.
Before we move on, we should take a moment to note what it says about Peter’s mother-in-law. The healing Jesus provided was complete and immediate. She didn’t need time to regain her strength after the fever left. The impression Mark gives is that she jumped up and immediately got to work preparing the Sabbath meal. We know that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, but that’s what he wants for us also. Whatever gifts he gives us, whatever blessings we receive, if we are healed of an illness, it’s not so that we can focus more on ourselves and complete our bucket list before it’s too late. It’s so that we can do what Peter’s mother-in-law did. It’s so that we can devote ourselves to serving others, starting with our families.
Wouldn’t you have liked to have been at Peter’s house that day and enjoyed a Sabbath meal with Jesus? What a wonderful discussion there must have been as these new disciples asked Jesus about what he had said and done in the Synagogue and asked for more details about what it meant that he would make them fishers of men. I pray that you make an opportunity sometime during your week, if not a Sunday dinner, maybe an evening meal where you can sit down as a family and discuss the things that Jesus said and did and what they mean for you personally and for the mission of the church and for the world in which we live. Jesus may not be present physically as he was at Peter’s house, but he promises to be present at your house as you gather in his name around his word. He still speaks with authority through his word about all the issues we face today.
When the sun set and the Sabbath was over, the calm enjoyment of Jesus’ presence came to an end. The whole town gathered at Peter’s door. They kept bringing all the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus so that he could heal them. And they were not disappointed. Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons.
The Bible lets us know that there wasn’t any sickness or disease that Jesus was unable to heal. Whether it was a fever or leprosy, or diseases that didn’t even have a name, he healed them. He gave sight to the blind, even those who were blind from birth. He enabled the mute to speak, without speech therapy. He enabled the lame not just to walk, but to run and jump, without any physical therapy. The healing he provided was immediate and complete. When it came to demons, there weren’t any that could refuse to obey him, even in cases where there were multiple demons, like Mary Magdalene, or the Gadarene man.
We might imagine that it was getting quite late by the time Jesus had healed all those who had come to Peter’s door. But, early in the morning, before dawn, Jesus was up. He withdrew to a solitary place and was praying there. Even as true God and true man, an hour or two spent with God in the Synagogue once a week was not enough. He spent time talking with the father in prayer often. He chose to go to a place where he wouldn’t be interrupted or distracted. He wanted some alone time with God.
What about you? Do you think that the fact that you are here today spending an hour hearing God’s word and giving him worship and praise is enough? Do you think you have now done your duty and the rest of the week is yours to do with as you please? Obviously, that’s a legalistic, sinful way of looking at things. Paul reminds us that we are not our own. We have been bought at a price. Jesus gave himself 100% for us. Should our response be that spending an hour a week for him, if we have time, is more than enough? Jesus redeemed us from sin, death, and Satan so that we would be his own and live under him in his kingdom, not just for an hour on Sunday, but every day. He wants all of us. He wants our hearts, hearts that want to hear what he has to say to us in his word daily, and that want to talk with him daily about that word and about everything that is happening in our lives. Even if that means getting up before the sun each day, or turning off the TV right after the news, or taking your lunch and going off by yourself, making time to listen to what Jesus says and to talk to God in prayer is what keeps our relationship with God strong. If it was important for Jesus, how much more important is it for us?
What did Jesus say in his prayer? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but the circumstances might suggest something. The night before, the whole town had just showed up at the door looking for physical healing. When Peter found where he had gone to pray, he said, Jesus, everyone is looking for you! Why? What did they want from him? More healing? Did they want to make him king as many did after the feeding of the 5000? Satan had offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world, all their glory, power and riches, if he would just bow down and worship him. Jesus had resisted that temptation, but was that temptation rearing its ugly head again with everyone looking for him? Was his prayer that he would resist the temptation to become a physical healer who set up shop in Capernaum? There certainly was an endless amount of physical need and he had the power and authority to take care of those needs. But is that why he had come?
After his prayer Jesus answered Peter and those with him who were encouraging him to come back to Capernaum and set up shop there, Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so that I can preach there too. In fact, that is why I have come.
Jesus didn’t come to earth just to heal people, or just for one city. In another place he makes his mission clear. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Sickness, disease, demon possession were only symptoms of a deeper problem. They all exist because of sin. They all exist because we are born in sin, in Adam’s sinful image. As the God-Man, Jesus had the power to take care of the symptoms of sin. He could heal the sick, but that didn’t solve the real problem. At some point in the future those people who had been healed would get sick again and they, like everyone, would face death. He could cast out a demon, but there would still be demons looking for opportunities to disrupt families and society and to distract people from the one thing they really need. Jesus came to preach. He came to proclaim the good news that his miracles were just a foretaste of what is in store for all who believe in him. He came to proclaim the good news that he is the promised Messiah, that came to destroy the devil’s work. He came to redeem all people. He came to provide a cure for sin, his blood shed on the cross that purifies us from sin. He came to win a place for us in heaven, a place where all the effects of sin are gone, where there is no sickness, no disease, no crime, no Satan, no death. Jesus came to let us know that he is the way, the truth and the life, our only way of salvation.
The one who teaches with authority and has authority over every sickness and disease, over death and Satan, says with the absolute authority as God- whoever believes in me has eternal life.
Trust that authoritative word and serve him with gladness every day.